PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia Phillies are setting all sorts of records in the World Series. Their hitting coach, Kevin Long, set one of his own as well by reaching the World Series with his fourth team as a coach.
The Phillies are up 2-1 in the series against the Houston Astros in large part because of their homer-happy offense. The team credited Long, the former hitting coach for the Mets and Yankees, as well as the crowd behind them at Citizens Bank Park.
The approach at the plate and the season-long lessons from Long have prepared the Phillies for this moment and the work is paying off. The team believes that home runs and hot hitting are as contagious as the atmosphere in south Philly. Wednesday night in Game 3, they smashed the Astros 7-0 and set a World Series record with five home runs.
Bryce Harper started the game with a two-run bomb in the first inning off of Lance McCullers Jr. and the entire ballpark was shaking.
“Kind of got the offense going and got everybody energized,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said.
There was some speculation that McCullers was tipping his pitches after Harper was seen on camera after his home run communicating something to Alec Bohm in front of the dugout. Bohm then homered to lead off the second and the crowd was right back in it.
“It doesn’t allow the pitcher to get into a rhythm or settle in,” Philadelphia first baseman Rhys Hoskins said. “We’re obviously excited about what’s going on and we feel the energy. You feel like you have 46,000 strong behind you and it gives you a little confidence.”
It was a fireworks show on the game’s biggest stage. They were able to give their fans that show because of improved power production this season.
The Phillies added home-run hitters in Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos last winter to a group that already included established hitters like Hoskins and J.T. Realmuto and up-and-coming hitters like Bohm.
The club already had one of the game’s most elite sluggers in Harper, and the hiring of Long reunited him with his former Washington Nationals coach. This proved to be beneficial while Harper spent much of the season rehabbing from an elbow injury and a thumb injury. He was shut down from playing defense for the rest of the season and still hasn’t been able to play in the outfield in the postseason.
Yet he still has six home runs in the playoffs and he credits Long for helping keep him on the same routine coming back from the injuries.
“Me and Kevin have just stayed the course,” Harper said. “That’s all you can do. You don’t really worry about the regular season when it turns to October. Everybody starts at zero and you get going and stay with the same routine, same mindset. You don’t want to change too much because it’s your routine.”
Long was brought in by former manager Joe Girardi last fall but he already had a familiarity with Thomson, who took over when the former Yankees’ skipper was fired early in the season. The manager knew his track of success and believed his ability to get the most of hitters would benefit everyone from Harper to the last guy on the bench.
“Kevin is one of my best friends,” Thomson said. “He’s a guy that I really rely on, I really trust. He is the best hitting coach I’ve been around, not just mechanically and game-planning, but also the fact that when a player leaves the cage to go into the game, he thinks he can really hit, and that’s who Kevin is. He’s great at making players feel good about themselves. His energy and his positive outlook just reverberates throughout the entire team.”
Long may not have made it to the World Series as a player, but he went as a coach with the Yankees in 2009, the Mets in 2015, the Nationals in 2019 and now with the Phillies. He’s the answer to an obscure baseball trivia question and one of the unsung heroes of Philadelphia’s postseason run.